“Getting Christmas Right”

It seems like every year around Christmas time we are inundated withstories about the celebration of Christmas being challenged by those who find it problematic that there is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. They seem to be concerned that in a pluralistic society that provides religious liberty (which is a good thing by the way!) that it is unfair for those who celebrate Christmas to have’carte blanche’ on the holiday and all that it represents. They would have us to remove any religious representation from what is indeed, at least in its original context, a religious holiday. They would have us refer to it as the “holidays’ instead of Christmas and also remove familiar icons such as nativity scenes and representations of the baby Jesus from the public arena. If we are to take their lead, then we would be forced to secretly celebrate Christmas in the confines of our own homes without ever speaking the name of Christ in the open. What a silly and unconstitutional thought! If we were to apply this logic across the board, no one would be able to celebrate anything publicly and there would have to be a removal of all religious observances in the public arena. Maybe that’s what they want.

Yet may I say that we who understand the meaning of Christmas may also be guilty of misrepresenting it somewhat. I am not talking about Santa Clause and Christmas Trees. Personally I have no problem with these harmless and fun traditions of Christmas, although I certainly understand that these things are not what Christmas is really about. What I am referring to is that we who understand the real meaning of Christmas
may be guilty of not telling the whole story. We are quick to point out that Christmas is about the baby Jesus, and we are correct.

However, the story of the baby Jesus is not the whole of what Christmas represents. The picture of the baby Jesus in his swaddling
clothes, with the wise men and the shepherds, is a scene that is replayed this time of year over and over, however there is more to the story. You see this baby Jesus grew up into a man. He lived his life among men although scripture clearly teaches He was God himself. At approximately the age of 30 He began an earthly ministry which would end some 3 years later with His crucifixion. We are to understand from the bible that His death was to make atonement for our sins. He died for you and He died for me.

You see, Christmas is not just about the birth of a little baby…but it is also about the death of a Deity! It is not just about the cradle, it is also about a cross and a crucifixion and also a crown. It is not just remembering the birth, yet celebrating the resurrection! You see this baby Jesus who lived a sinless life and died for our sins was buried and then was raised 3 days later so that we can have eternal life. This is why Christians get so upset, or at least they should, when perhaps well meaning folks want to take Christ out of Christmas. It means so much more than just the cute little baby born in the manger. It means our redemption. It means our salvation. It means our forgiveness and life eternal.

Let us not be guilty in our zeal to keep the baby Jesus in Christmas that we may unintentionally also remove the cross out of Christmas. You can’t have one without the other, you can’t have it both ways. Ultimately Christmas reminds us to examine Gods offer of salvation to anyone who will simply trust Him by faith and His provision of forgiveness through Christs death on the cross. Have you done just that? It is so important that you realize that God really loves you so much that He gave His son to die for your sins and that forgiveness can be found in a relationship with Him.

Maybe this Christmas you need to seek out a bible believing church that tells and teaches this story, not just around Christmas, but 365 days a year! From the cradle to the cross to a crown! That’s what Christmas is all about! Merry CHRISTmas to you, your family and may we continue to tell the story until the whole world hears!

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Go, Send…or Disobey

Our Purpose and Mission…the Nations

It has been heard said on more than one occasion in Southern Baptist church’s “Who is the Lottie Moon and when will we get her paid off?” Although it may be a funny premise, the truth is that she won’t be paid off until the Lord returns! The Lottie Moon offering for International Missions is the yearly offering taken up by Southern Baptists for the purpose of world evangelization. Every dollar given to LM goes directly to the foreign mission field. Not one penny is kept for other causes. Our church celebrates this offering in a wonderful and unique way in and that we will designate one evening for an in gathering of our offering and as a church we will bring our gift to the alter and as a church family offer it to the Lord and to the cause of world missions. I love how we do this! As we all are beginning to pray about and focus on what the Lord would have us to give I thought I would offer some statistics to help direct our thoughts and prayers.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force reported that some 6 billion of the 6.8 billion people in the world are without Christ and over 3.5 billion have never heard the Gospel. In North America alone, 258 million are lost. In the unevangelized world, there are 20,500 full-time Christian workers and 10,200 foreign missionaries. In the evangelized non-Christian world, there are 1.31 million full-time Christian workers. That means we have apx one million Christian workers devoted to penetrating the darkness. However, when you consider the 6 billion that need Jesus then you begin to get an idea of the great need. Also, understand that in those statistics there is no distinction between and evangelical witness and that of someone who may not truthfully present the gospel. In SOuthern Baptist life we have a little over 5000 full time vocational missionaries on the field. This is startling! We must set our faces like flint towards the task of reaching the nations! We have the answer and we have the means of getting it done! THen what is the problem? Why is it “The least of these” are often the least on our thoughts and efforts? Well, for one thing the devil hates missions! He will do anything and everything to stop it. He will convince us that we cannot give and we must not go. This is a lie and a deception – The church has been called to GO! In fact, God has COMMANDED IT! God will never call His people to a task that He has not also equipped and empowered them to accomplish. SOmetimes we are just apathetic or to busy to think or act. Here is the reality that faces us…Hell is real, the lost will spend an eternity confined to it in suffering and separation, The Lord Jesus died so they would not have to, and the church has been given the mandate to make the story known! It is our privilege, honor and responsibility to do so. We really can make a difference. You can really make a difference. Give to Lottie Moon, support the Cooperative Program, support our own short term mission efforts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, better yet – Go on mission! All of these efforts are what we are called to – it is our MISSION. One man summed it up this way – “We give, we send, we go, or…we disobey, these are our choices” AMEN and AMEN! I pray God will grant you and yours a joyous and blessed Christmas – and may we all be reminded that we go… because He gave! It is our mission, it is our purpose. Here is a video to help us focus on the need and the call!

Clarification Please?

Lately I have been going back and forth with some folks on another blog which is known for it’s anti SBC stand (although it’s author is a SBC pastor) concerning just what is the nature of the gospel. There are some commenting on that blog that one can be a Mormon or Jehovahs Witness and still be a Christian. One poster stated that the only thing that really matters is love and that is the subjective actions of love towards others that saves us daily. My answer to this and other extra biblical claims…HOGWASH! Did I make that clear enough…if not let me say it again but this time a little clearer…H O G W A S H !

But equally concerning are the comments of those who believe that our salvation is either earned or perhaps actually validated by our actions and works. What this shows us is that there needs to be a clarification of the gospel in todays church. I am glad that the church in which I serve is very clear about this. We believe that salvation comes when we place our faith in Christ alone trusting Him alone for our forgiveness. There is no other name in which we can be saved and our salvation is based upon the precepts of scripture and not our own subjective approach to man made religion. I had posted a video some time back concerning the gospel but I think it is good to post it again. Dr. Moore does a wonderful job clarifying just what is the gospel. He will share with us that it is not:

1. Our good works

2. Our religious duty

3. Our own morality

4. Our own right standing

Our salvation is only found in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross where He paid the price for our sins thus appeasing the holy wrath of God so that we now have been reconciled by His blood. Three days later He was gloriously raised from the dead thus defeating death, hell and the grave! Thats the Gospel – Thats the good news! The Mormons do not teach it, the JW’s do not teach it…and apparently some very confused baptist are not teaching it…

 

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A Word On Alcohol

Recently a firestorm in the baptist blog world has arisen over the use of alcohol in moderation. Without getting neck deep in all of this let me simply say that my position is one of total abstinence and I am very surprised that this has even become an issue in SBC life. I do not believe it to be a real issue in our church’s, yet I do understand that we have people who drink…some in excess. This has always been the case and I assume will always be. I have placed for you’re reading pleasure a blog entry by Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a former professor of mine at the Criswell College, concerning his position on the whole matter. I find myself in great agreement with Dr. Akin although I readily admit that I have not dealt with the details in the same way he has. Perhaps I need to…

May we all agree that we should do nothing that would dishonor our Lord and bring reproach to His great name! I think we can all drink to that! A nice cold Dr. Pepper for me…or if I am feeling particularly feisty – a “Full Throttle” Energy drink!

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DR AKINS ARTICLE  

The Case for Alcohol Abstinence

Oct 14th, 2010 by Daniel Akin Print This Post

I readily confess to a personal bias when it comes to the issue of alcohol.  My wife Charlotte grew up in the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home because her parents were alcoholics.  Her father died a lost alcoholic.  Her mother, by God’s grace, was saved on her death bed.  Her body had been ravaged by the twin killers of alcohol and tobacco.  Today her sister and brother are lost alcoholics as is most of the rest of her family.  My sister Joy and her husband Kevin King adopted a daughter born with fetal alcohol syndrome.  She began life with two strikes against her through no fault of her own.

Today there are more than 40 million problem drinkers in America.  Alcohol is the number one drug problem among teenagers.  One in three American families suspects that one or more family members have a drinking problem.  Misuse of alcohol costs our nation $100 billion a year in quantifiable cost.  Because of these experiences and many more, I have often said that even if I were not a Christian I would have nothing to do with alcohol.  There is simply too much sorrow and heartache connected to it.  Avoiding this devastating drug is simply the wise thing to do.

This year at our Convention we again passed a resolution calling for abstinence from alcohol.  The resolution passed overwhelmingly, but it did generate significant debate both during and after the Convention.  Some have accused those supporting the resolution of being pharisaical and legalistic, traditionalist and anti-biblical.  It is said that we fail to understand Christian liberty and freedom, and that we even stand against Jesus.  These are strong accusations from fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  However, are they correct?  Are those like myself who believe abstinence to be the best lifestyle choice really guilty of these charges?  Let me respond as graciously and kindly as I possibly can, explaining why I hold the position I do.  I share my heart with no malice or ill will toward anyone, but from a desire to honor the Lord Jesus, and to protect others from the evils alcohol has visited on so many.

We should remember from a Baptist perspective that there are historicalprecedents for affirming abstinence.  In 1886 Southern Baptists issued their first resolution on alcohol.  Since then there have been almost 60 resolutions that in a united voice have addressed the risk of alcohol and the wisdom of abstinence.  For 120 years Southern Baptists have made clear their stand on this issue.  Individual Baptists no doubt continue to take a drink as they had before 1886, but the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole has been crystal clear on where it stands for a long time.  I am confident that our forefathers understood the issue of Christian liberty as they passed these resolutions.  I am grateful for this tradition.  I believe we should continue it.

There are moral reasons for affirming abstinence.  John Piper teaches the wisdom of abstinence because alcohol can be a mind-altering drug, and it can be addictive.  It does not help one in doing the will of God and can genuinely be a hindrance.  Further, he notes “the carnage of alcohol abuse” and therefore chooses to boycott such a product.  He then adds, “is it really so prudish, or narrow to renounce a highway killer, a home destroyer, and a business wrecker.”  Some questions are in order and deserve an answer.  Does alcohol make me a better person?  Does alcohol draw me closer to God?  Does alcohol help me run the race faithfully to the end (Heb. 12:1-2)?

Some respond by saying the issue is not abstinence but moderation.  They draw an analogy to both eating and sex.  There is however a significant difference.  We must eat to live.  We must engage in sex to procreate.  Alcohol is not a necessity for life or good living.

I am in total agreement with my spiritual hero Adrian Rogers who said, “Moderation is not the cure for the liquor problem.  Moderation is the cause of the liquor problem.  Becoming an alcoholic does not begin with the last drink, it always begins with the first.  Just leave it alone.”  My friend James Merritt wisely says, “It is impossible to be bitten by a snake that you never play with.”  Alcoholism cannot strike unless it is given the opportunity.  That potential becomes real with the first drink that one takes.

There are biblical reasons for practicing abstinence.  Let me quickly note several. 1) It is consistent with the principle of edification (1 Cor. 6:12).  Alcohol does not build you up or make you better for Jesus.  Avoiding it ensures you will not harm yourself with it.  2) It is consistent with the principle of refusing that which enslaves (1 Cor. 6:12).  Alcohol is a drug that can impair the senses and has a potential addictive element.  Like addictive pornography, it should be avoided at all cost.  3) It is consistent with the ethic of love for believers and unbelievers alike (1 Cor. 8:13; 9:19-22; 10:32-33).

Because I am an example to others, I will make certain no one ever walks the road of sorrow called alcoholism because they saw me take a drink and assumed, “if it is alright for Danny Akin, it is alright for me.”  No, I will choose to set an uncompromising example of abstinence because I love them.  4) I will seek my joy and filling in the Spirit not in alcohol.  I love the Phillips translation of Ephesians 5:18 which reads, “Don’t get your stimulus from wine (for there is always the danger of excessive drinking), but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.”  Psalm 4:7-8 adds, “You [O Lord] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  5) It is true Jesus drank wine, and I am sure I would have had I lived in the first century.  However, there is no evidence that he ever partook of “strong drink.”

As Bob Stein has carefully documented, “The term “wine” or oinos in the ancient world, then, did not mean wine as we understand it today but wine mixed with water… To consume the amount of alcohol that is in two martinis by drinking wine containing three parts water to one part wine [a fairly common ancient ratio], one would have to drink over twenty-two glasses.  In other words, it is possible to become intoxicated from wine mixed with three parts water, but one’s drinking would probably affect the bladder long before it affected the mind.”  It should also be noted that children would have drank this diluted mixture of water and wine.  It seems clear that there is no one-to-one correspondence with first century wine and twenty first century distilled liquor.  Concerning the latter I believe the Lord Jesus would have no part.

Let me conclude with some practical considerations.  Should those who practice abstinence look down on those who do not?  The answer is an unqualified no.  That is pride and therefore is sin.  It is true that alcohol has contributed to many going to hell, but pride, no doubt, has done so in even greater numbers.  A smug, prideful abstainer without Jesus is just as lost as the poor drunkard who is always in search of another drink.  Those who believe in abstinence should be gracious and humble, kind and caring, loving and patient.

As a pastor or church leader, would I demand abstinence for church membership?  No, I would not.  Would I demand it for leadership?  Absolutely!  The principle of Proverbs 31:4-5 is appropriately applied here, “It is not for Kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.”

I agree with John MacArthur.  Can I say it is always a sin to take a drink?  No.  Can I say it is almost always unwise?  Yes, because it violates the biblical principles of wisdom and witness.  One of America’s leading pastors is Andy Stanley.  He wrote a book entitled The Best Question Ever.  That question is this, “What is the wise thing for me to do?”  I challenge anyone to show me the superior wisdom of drinking “in moderation,” as opposed to not drinking at all.  This is not legalism but love.  This is not being anti-biblical but pro-brother and sister.  This is not working for evil but for good.  Given the world in which we live I believe such a lifestyle honors the Lord Jesus.  I believe it pleases Him.  Without question it is the wise thing to do.

Worship Wars

Thought I would repost this – it was sent to me by a preacher friend in Georgia. It is
certainly gris for the worshipers mill!

Worship Wars Erupt When We Put Style Over Substance

Posted on 2009/09/06 by Tim Jeske

By Guest Writer: Alexandra Armstrong

This article was featured in the Saturday (9/5) edition of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. The author is a featured writer for the Religion column. I say, “Kudos Alexandra!”. She graciously provided permission to post this here.

Have the worship wars come to your church? My husband and I don’t have to go to church to disagree about music — we can argue about it at home.

Gary and I are six years apart in age but a generation apart in our musical tastes. There’s not a Gaither Homecoming CD Gary doesn’t own, a Homecoming friend he doesn’t love or a Gaither song he doesn’t know. Saturday nights are a Gaither-fest at our house since they come on three channels consecutively. When Gary drives us to church, there’s no discussion about what we’ll be listening to in his car. It’s all Gaither, all the time.

I think of Bill Gaither as Christianity’s Lawrence Welk. I like more contemporary Christian music. I listen to Travis Cottrell for taking walks and Mandisa for driving. I can clean my whole house in 30 minutes listening to Toby Mac because his music hits my happy-mood button. Gary says Toby Mac hits his headache button after 30 seconds.

The one thing Gary and I agree on is that neither of us expects our style preferences to play a role in the congregational worship music of our church. We have 167 hours each week to listen to the music we’re partial to. For one hour a week we can manage to forget ourselves. Church worship wars exist when God’s people refuse to do that.

Worship is about focus. Our singular focus as a gathering of God’s people is to magnify him and bless his heart. Period. The moment we institute a policy of catering to the style preferences of a particular generation (whether young or old) or we use worship music to lure potential converts, we’ve put our worship focus on the creature rather than the Creator.

That’s the very definition of idolatry. Good intentions are no defense for idolatry.

I fear the evangelical church has missed the point of worship by focusing on style over substance. One generation builds a doctrine that drums are tossed up to Earth from hell. Another generation deludes itself that God is honored when their elder’s sensitivities are dishonored. Neither generation is tripping over themselves to prefer one another in Christ as Scripture commands.

I used to believe the solution to the generational worship divide was to have a separate service for each style. Now I believe this only reinforces a burger mentality in God’s people — who expect to have worship their way. It might give God the impression we don’t think the unity he thinks so much of is worth our effort.

We need to move the discussion past the style of worship music and on to the substance of it. Has anyone noticed how self-exulting our songs have gotten? We’ve moved from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to “I Am a Friend of God” and from “I Know Whom I Have Believed” to “I Know Who I Am.” Yikes.

Worship is to be selfless. Ditto for marriage — which is why I’ll be with Gary at the Gaither concert at Five Flags next Saturday.

Wherever you are at this Sunday – no matter what you sing – I pray it is with a heart directed towards Him and that the songs you sing are not only inspirational – but also biblical!

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Revival and Me

Beginning on September 26th our church will host 4 days of revival meetings.

We will be blessed to have leading us Dr. Jim Richards, the executive director of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. Dr. Richards is also our former associational missionary here in NWABA and known by many of us. As we approach these series of meetings God has placed on my heart our real need for corporate revival. I sense a hunger and longing for greater intimacy with the Lord and a profound desire for His manifested presence in our corporate gatherings.

It is my understanding of revival history and church history that corporate revival is something that takes place when we as individuals seek a great move of God in our own personal lives. The culmination of our doing this as individuals finds fruition in what God is seemingly doing in our congregational meetings. Certainly we all long to see many saved, but revival is more about you and me getting our hearts and lives in alignment with the heart of God and the life of His dear Son.When this takes place people are drawn in greater numbers to the cross and salvation. When revival comes people get right with one another, they pray more, they fast, they witness, they give more, not only of their finances but also of their time and talent. When revival comes people love more – they love Jesus and others in a greater capacity!

What is a good definition of revival? The following definitions serves a great purpose in teaching us what revival really is and perhaps what it is not:

“Revival is that sovereign work of God in which He visits His own
people, restoring and releasing them into the fullness of His
blessing.” – Robert Coleman

“Revival is a return to spiritual health after a period of decline
into sin and broken fellowship with God… Revival is for God’s people
when they need to be forgiven and restored to life, spiritual health,
and vitality” -Blackaby & King (Fresh Encounter, Lifeway, 1993)

“Revival is an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit producing
extraordinary results.” – Richard Owen Roberts

My own definition is this – “Revival is God working in and through me
in a fresh and powerful way in which the joy and purpose of my
salvation is made fully known, not only to me, yet to those around me”

Look in the Bible. Notice how many times it says, “me” or “us” when
speaking of revival. Here are some examples:

Psalm 119:156: “Great are Thy mercies, O Lord; Revive me according to
Thine ordinances”

Psalm 119:37: “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me
in Thy ways.”

Psalm 119:88: “Revive me according to Thy lovingkindness, So that I
may keep the testimony of Thy mouth”

Psalm 85:6: “Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again, That Thy people
may rejoice in Thee?”

Habbakuk 3:2: “Lord, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear. O
Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the
years make it known; In wrath remember mercy”

Like the old song says, “It’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need
of prayer.”

Revival begins with and ends with me. Would you join me this month in
praying for and seeking revival in your own life and the life of
your church. These are desperate times and the need is as great as it
has ever been – Lord send REVIVAL – and let it begin in me!

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“Radical” by David Platt – A Review

I have been changed and challenged by David Platt’s book “Radical” In our church not only is our staff reading it, but we are calling our people to read it also as our staff shares it with individuals and asks them to return it when they are done so that we can continue to share it with others. It is an approach to discipleship with the end in mind of likewise challenging our folks and key leaders in our church to abandon the American dream for the glory of God and the embrace of the gospel! I have included Frank Gantz’s review of Radical for your information and with the hope that you will grab a copy and read it for yourself!

When I picked up this book to begin reading it, I half expected to glance through a book with some of the typical Christian talk about being all you can be. Instead I found myself being challenged to my core and desiring to follow Jesus like never before.

David Platt is the young pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. I have been hearing much about him and his ministry, but have not had any direct connection to his work. In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Platt strikingly contrasts the choice that American Christians have to make. Either we pursue the American Dream or we pursue Following Jesus. Too often we have mingled these competing visions. This union of the two naturally leans toward the American dream.

Platt does not merely provide preachy exhortation. He lays a solid foundation of the gospel and what it means to believe the gospel. In fact, if you want to understand what the gospel is, then this book is worth whatever price you might pay.

Platt also provides fantastic anecdotal accounts of the gospel being lived by people in the United States and throughout the world. At the end of the book he spells out a 5 step one-year challenge. The steps are both simple but profound. I have definitely been impacted, and believe that in a year I will be changed for the better.

Without question, this is the most moving and the best book I have read in years. To get your copy from Amazon, click on one of the titles (Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream) or on the book image above.

Pick up a copy of ‘Radical’ and be changed!

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